Burroughs knows his second chance is his last

Burroughs knows his second chance is his last

Published Mar. 6, 2012 3:05 p.m. ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Sean Burroughs' major league baseball timeline has a gap in it. From 2006-10, he didn't play a single game in the majors.

Those are what Burroughs calls the "lost years."

During that time, Burroughs — a third baseman in the Minnesota Twins' spring training camp — battled substance addiction. The former San Diego Padres first-round draft pick spent four seasons with the Padres, then a year in 2006 with Tampa Bay before falling off the map.

Burroughs got mixed up in drugs and alcohol, derailing his baseball career. He played only eight games with the Rays in 2006 and 37 with Tampa Bay's Triple-A affiliate, the Durham Bulls. But the Rays released Burroughs on Aug. 14 of that year. He did not step foot on a big-league diamond again for nearly five years.

Burroughs told ESPN.com last year that, during his time away from baseball, he ate cheeseburgers out of garbage cans and lived in cheap motels while ingesting "a lot" of substances, both legal and illegal.

It was a far fall for the former No. 9 overall pick and 2000 Olympic gold medalist.

"It was kind of dead time to myself, a lot of lost years. I look back at it with a lot of regret," Burroughs said Tuesday. "A lot of things I, obviously, wish I could have changed, but, obviously, I can't change the past. I don't have a little genie in a lamp that I can rub and pop out and get three wishes and say, 'I'd like to turn back my life and figure out where that fork in the road was that I veered to the dark path.'

"It's part of my story. It's part of my journey."

Burroughs' journey has led him to Fort Myers, where he's trying to leave spring training on the Twins' big-league roster. A career .280 hitter in the majors, the 31-year-old has a chance to challenge Danny Valencia for playing time at third.

Burroughs might have never gotten the chance with Minnesota if he didn't break back into the majors last year with Arizona. After sobering up, Burroughs signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent before the 2011 season and played 78 games in the majors last year.

"It was an incredible experience," Burroughs said of last season. "It's something that is kind of cliche, but as a little kid, your ultimate goal is to . . . get to the major leagues. Being out for a little bit, I had no real expectations. I just wanted to go out there and play again and see what happened. …

"I was back in the big leagues. It was remarkable. It was fun."

Fun. Sean Burroughs is having fun again. Drugs provided a temporary high during a dark time in his life, but baseball has given Burroughs a longer-lasting enjoyment. After all, he grew up around the sport from the time he was born. His father, Jeff, was an All-Star outfielder who played for five teams during his 16-year career. Jeff Burroughs was the first overall pick in the 1969 draft and won the American League MVP with the Texas Rangers in 1974.

Sean Burroughs was only 5 when his dad retired in 1985, but his father was an integral part in helping Sean's baseball career.

"From the day I started playing Little League to high school to minor leagues, he's always been there by my side," said Burroughs, who starred as a pitcher on Little League World Series champions from Long Beach, Calif., in 1992 and '93. "He's always there to give me pointers and things that are just going to help me. He's not there to criticize me or tell me what I'm doing wrong. He's just trying to help out as a father, as an ex-baseball player and as a role model to myself growing up."

Minnesota is taking a chance on Burroughs, hoping he can perhaps provide some sound defense at third base. He had a rough night defensively at third Monday against the Boston Red Sox, but the Twins know it's too early in spring to make hasty conclusions.

"We're just letting him play," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They haven't played much. He's only played a couple games. Just got to see how he does as we get going. There's another guy that's been around the game a long, long time. You give him a little leeway and everything that happens out there, and see how he goes."

Added Twins general manager Terry Ryan: "He's capable of making those plays. I know that."

The Twins also know Burroughs is an easy guy to root for, after all he went through off the field. Gene Glynn, the new manager of Triple-A Rochester, saw Burroughs playing in winter ball in Venezuela. All indications the Twins received were that Burroughs was a good guy to have in the clubhouse.

"For anybody that's got the experiences that he's gone through and some of the addictions and so forth, you've got to wish him well," Ryan said. "Obviously, we're hoping that everything goes well for him. Not just for his sake, but ours. He's kind of a guy that fits here a little bit. So we'll see how he performs as well."

It's a mutual admiration between the Twins and Burroughs. As he sat at his locker at the Lee County Sports Complex on Tuesday morning, Burroughs joked with outfielder Rene Tosoni, six years his junior, at the locker next to him. It's clear Burroughs is enjoying his time with Minnesota, albeit a brief tenure so far.

Burroughs speaks highly of the Twins organization. He enjoys playing for Gardenhire, a manager he said "does everything the right way."

After doing a lot of things the wrong way off the field, Burroughs hopes his life and his baseball career are back on track.

"There's not too many second chances in life, and I got one," Burroughs said. "I was real fortunate to get one and make the best of it because I know there's not going to be any third chances. That's for sure. This is it for me."

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